Tag: christmas carol

Teaser Tuesdays: Christmas Carol

Friends of the blog know I have a bit of a Christmas Carol obsession.  Last year on my movie blog I did an entire month of watching 35 different versions of Christmas Carol. 54disneyreviews.com/scrooge-month/

Every year I make sure to go to Christmas Carol at Hale Theater Orem.  It makes the season for me and it is one of my favorite books, and I read it every year during the Christmas season.   Here’s another post I wrote all about Christmas Carol.

Why do I love it so much?  I guess I love stories of redemption and that nobody is a lost cause. It reminds me of what happens when we forget about Christ (or Christmas) and how we can find him again through the sacrifice of our friends.  It’s about looking at our past, present and future to change and grow.  It’s one of those stories that is almost impossible for me to not like- even Tori Spelling version I like! (But there are a few versions I don’t like.  I’m talking to you Ghost of Girlfriends Past!)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

christmas carol bookAnyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page.
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

Here’s my teaser from  of Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens page 33:

It was a great surprise to Scrooge, while listening to the moaning of the wind, and thinking what a solemn thing it was to move on through the lonely darkness over an unknown abyss, whose depths were secrets as profound as death: it was a great surprise to Scrooge, while thus engaged, to hear a hearty laugh.

I love that quote! What imagery and it is a small moment where Scrooge starts to notice things like laughter where he had missed it before (it is Fred’s laughter which he shunned earlier in the day). Reading this book again makes me want to finally tackle some of the more challenging Dickens like David Copperfield and Nicholas Nickleby. Have you read any of those?  What Dickens have you read?  I have read Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, Oliver, and Tale of Two Cities and I love them all with Christmas Carol and Great Expectations being my favorite.  I would also love to read Little Dorrit one of these days.

Do you read Christmas Carol during the holidays?  Do you watch a version of the movie?  Why does the story ring true for you? Why do you think it still remains a classic all these years later?

Let’s talk about it and what are you reading right now? If any of you do the Teaser Tuesdays please let me know!

Here are my top 10 versions of Christmas Carol

Favorite Christmas Movies

Fa, la, la, la, la.  The special time of the year is starting next week with Thanksgiving.  I leave on Tuesday for California where I will be visiting my folks along with 4 out of my 5 siblings and their families.

It will be a challenging time for the diet (especially because I found out I gained 10 lbs in October 😦 I don’t know how that happened.).  There is so much yummy food at my parents house and being away from my gym is always tough.

At least I get two days next week off of my sugar fast- Thanksgiving and the day after.  I am so excited to eat pie!  My mother makes the best pie in all the world (I defy anyone to go up against her pies!).

The only pie I’ve ever had that I don’t care for is rhubarb but my favorites are apple, pumpkin and lemon meringue.  I can not make pies like my Mom.  Her crusts are so flaky.  Yum! (the sad part is my Mom can’t eat her pies any more because she is gluten intolerant. Sad story!)

Anyway, one thing that will hopefully keep my  mind off of food and give me a break from work is the beginning of the holiday film season.  I am an unabashed  Christmas movie geek.  I like all levels of seasonal films everything from sublime classics like Its a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street to Hallmark made for TV movies like The Town Christmas Forgot or the Christmas Shoes…

I think part of the reason I love Christmas movies is that I spend many holiday nights alone, which is fine with me but the holidays can feel a little lonely sometimes. It can be a little bit sad to not have a special person/children to buy presents for or start new traditions.

I have my own traditions such as going to Christmas Carol at Hale Theater or the Messiah Sing in but I still like the hominess and comfort that a Christmas movie brings.  (Hopefully that doesn’t sound too pathetic!)

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before I also LOVE any retelling of the Christmas Carol.  From Mickey, to the Muppetts, to George C.  Scott, I have never met a Christmas Carol that I didn’t love.  I find the story of redemption and hope through Christ (in the form of Christmas) so moving.  I even liked the most recent animated version with a very subdued Jim Carey (I had my doubts going into it but its great!).

I wager to say I have seen every non-R rated Christmas movie (sorry friends haven’t seen Bad Santa or the recent Harold and Kumar. You will have to go to another blog for those reviews).  From all of those movies I have whittled it down to a top 10 list, so that you can easily make your Yuletide viewing choices.  (Some of them I mentioned above)

1. Its a Wonderful Life- So moving.  The classic of the desperate George Bailey who hates his job, is tired of his family and has just lost a great deal of money.  As a youth he dreamed of doing something great and exciting but ended up saddled at his father’s business while his younger brother went off to see the world.  I think this movie is so widely viewed because George’s situation is universally relatable.

I don’t care how grand your life is every one has days where they feel discouraged and frustrated with the course of their life.  As we watch George get his gift of perspective (life without his presence) all of us take pause for a moment and remember how blessed we truly are and that we matter to the world. Make sure to watch it in the beautiful black and white- none of this terrible colorized print. Same is true for the next film

2. Miracle on 34th St- The classic tale of the little girl and her workaholic Mom who don’t believe in magic or Santa.  Edmund Gwen won a best supporting Oscar for his portrayal as St.  Nick as well as wins for the screenplay and story.  Natalie Wood is excellent as the little girl and the whole movie has a depth to it not found in most holiday romance pictures.  Its wonderful. (Is available right now as a stream from Netflix)

3. Christmas Carol (1951 and 1984).  As noted above, I love any version of the Christmas Carol.  My two favorite are probably from 1951 starring Alastair Sim and 1984 starring George C.  Scott.  In both of these versions the true Christian message of the book is brought out not just the cheerful holiday tone.  Again, I love the story of redemption and that no one is a lost cause with Christ’s help.  The Jim Carey version is available right now as a stream from Netflix and well worth your time)

4. White Christmas- I know the plot is contrived and ridiculous but who watches a movie like this for the plot? Its all about the wonderful Irving Berlin music from talents like Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney and the amazing, over the top dance numbers from Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen.  So many classic songs like Count Your Blessings, Sisters, Best Things Happen While Your Dancing, and of course the title number White Christmas. So great!

5. Christmas Story- Some people in my family don’t like this movie but I think it is very funny.  I like the sarcastic tone of the narrator as little Ralphie schemes for his Red Ryder air rifle.  With all the laughs there are also moments of subtlety and tenderness particularly in the scenes between mother and son after Ralphie’s big fight with the bully.

6. Elf- A movie that should have been terrible but actually works.  Enjoying this movie entirely depends on whether you think Will Farrell is funny.  I happen to, so I love this movie.  Zooey Deschanel is wonderful as the love interest and James Caan hilarious as Buddy’s workaholic father.  Elf wrings out every possible joke it can and about 85% made me laugh so I’d say that’s a winner.

7. Dr.  Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966).  One of the few Christmas movies I don’t like is the live action version of this wonderful animated short, based on Dr.  Seuss’s Christmas story of a monster Grinch who decides to ruin Christmas by stealing all the presents.  Every attempt they have made of updating Seuss just doesn’t work.

First of all, his books are short and do not stretch to a 2 hour running time.  Secondly, what is charming in drawing form looks bizarre and twisted in human form.  For example, the Who’s in the book/animated short are cute and cuddly; where in the live action they look like strange deformed pigs.  Anyway, the classic music from Boris Karloff makes this short truly memorable.

8.  A Charlie Brown Christmas- Who doesn’t have a soft spot for the brood from Peanuts (a name Charles Shultz always hated)? Snoopy, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, Linus and of course Charlie Brown are part of most American childhoods.  This animated short is near perfect.  Vince Guaraldi’s wonderful music is practically synonymous with the holidays and whether it is Charlie Brown’s love for a sad small tree or the work kids do to put on the yearly pageant this film is sweet and perfect for Christmas.  (Its kind of sad that nobody would think of doing a Christmas pageant any more in a public school…)

9. The Shop Around the Corner- While not technically a Christmas movie, it is set during the holidays and selecting gifts proves a critical plot point.  The story is that Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan hate working together but are secretly cherished pen pals to each other.

You’ve Got Mail was adapted from this movie and I love both versions. However, The Shop Around the Corner goes a bit darker at points than You’ve Got Mail.  The incidents involving Stewart’s boss and a suspected affair are moving and balance out the witty, more frothy parts. These movies explore the idea of work and what value we get from our work and working relationships. I love movies about work.

10. So many I could pick for the last spot Polar Express,  Scrooged, Meet Me in St.  Louis, Love Actually, Little Women, Nightmare Before Christmas, Home Alone, Christmas in Connecticut, Christmas Vacation and even the trite but fun The Holiday (and don’t forget those stop motion shorts- especially the one about the island of misfit toys).

All good picks but I will chose a lesser known films, Joyeux Noel.  This beautiful movie tells the story of a ‘Christmas truce’ between the Scot/French troops and their German enemies in WWI.  This begins as a German opera singer starts singing Silent Night for his troops and others join in.

Eventually the soldiers meet and agree to a Christmas cease fire zone where good wishes and Christmas treats are shared between opposing sides.  It may sound cloying but its not.  Its beautiful and tender and does not necessarily have a happy ending.  However, to be catapulted back into the realities of war does not disturb the power of one moment of peace. Very good film that originally had an R rating (crazy!) but it was changed to a PG-13.

So that’s my list.  I hope you all have as much fun watching holiday movies as I will.  In fact, if you are in town join me for a viewing! I can’t promise the treats will be good but we can enjoy some wonderful, faith-filled, Christmas films.

Christmas Carol

As I mentioned in my last post one of my Christmas traditions is to go to a fabulous local production of A Christmas Carol at Hale Center Theater Orem.  In the small ‘theater in the round’, the audience-member becomes engulfed in the world of Victorian London and the classic Dickensian tale of redemption (btw, you know your an influential author if you have your own adjective- right!)

Everyone knows the story of the “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner” known as Ebeneezer Scrooge.   What you may not know is some of the history behind the story.   In his novels, Dickens had two purposes for writing: 1. to show a journey of redemption by the lead character (or characters) and 2. to profile the horrific state of the lower classes.  As can be seen in Little Dorrit, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and other novels the poor characters must fight his or her way through work houses, orphanages, debtors prisons and Poor Laws- all institutions which made it nearly impossible to progress towards financial stability.  This is the reason why Scrooge (clearly the rare non-aristocratic member of the upper class) views the work houses as the only suitable charity he can support. Scrooge was also not alone in the idea of “decreasing the surplus population.”  The poor were often perceived as lazy and undeserving by the upper class- even worthy of punishment for their apparent idleness.

However, Dickens is not as one-sided against the wealthy as he might at first seem.  For instance, we can see in Nephew Fred the type of rich person Dickens believes in- a man who uses his fortune to cheer others (even his crotchety uncle).  In the Christmas Future vision it is Fred that notices Bob Cratchit’s sorrow and offers comfort for him and his family.  The Fezziwig’s and the men seeking charity are other examples.  They hope to collect “some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.  Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts.”   Clearly for Dickens it is not the possession of money that creates evil but the love of it- the avarice and greed.  In addition, the laws of the day supported the greedy and made service the exception to the rule.  Let’s not forget Dickens lived in the beginning of industrialization which brought with it child labor, insufficient pay and deplorable work conditions.   There is also an element of fear attached to Scrooge.  It is out of a ‘fear of the world’ that causes him to hoard money,  and the more he fears, the more he hates.

By using the happy time of Christmas as the setting Dickens creates a foil for the worldly Scrooge  and in many ways a symbolic dichotomy- Scrooge or Satan on one side, Christ and Christmas on the other.  This is why Tiny Tim is the ultimate contrast to Scrooge- Tiny Tim who hopes “the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”   I’ve always thought Scrooge’s initial response to Tiny Tim is interesting:

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before,”tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”

Why did Scrooge have an immediate reaction to Tim?  I think it is Dickens’ way of showing the power the light of Christ has on a sinner- it makes an impression on even the most hardened of hearts!

Could it be there is hope for such a wicked man as Scrooge?  What about the other cold and uncaring of his class? According to Christmas Carol, the answer is yes!  In fact, this is the reason Jacob Marley gives Scrooge “a chance and hope of escaping my fate.  A chance and hope of my procuring.”  Scrooge was lucky to have such a friend in Jacob and perhaps many of us are brought to Christ through the love of our friends?

Through Marley’s gift Scrooge realizes he has wasted his life on a fear of poverty and shut out the light that the Cratchit’s have found in spite of their meager possessions.  He learns whether rich or poor, happiness comes from a changed life, “an altered life”, a life focused on God’s commandments and on satisfying the needs of others with Christian charity.

At Christmas time, I hope you get a chance to read this wonderful story.  For some it has become trite and rehearsed but give it another shot.  I challenge you to actually read it this year with an eye for the lessons it teaches- not just about making Christmas a merry time but of the peace Jesus Christ gives through His Atonement.  The power of His love can change a ‘covetous old sinner’ into “as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world”.   In truth we are all sinners and in need of redemption- Christmas Carol tells us that conversion is possible for anyone.

In addition to loving the novel, I have yet to see a film version of I do not like (even the recent animated movie with Jim Carey was good!) .  Whether it be live on stage, preformed by Mickey, or by the Muppets, the Christmas Carol is a classic for a reason.  It reminds us to use the great gift of Jesus Christ’s redemption in our lives and to give the gift to others through service and a merry heart- especially at His season of Christmas.

You can read Christmas Carol online for free.

http://www.stormfax.com/1dickens.htm

Single Christmas Traditions

It’s hard to believe there is only a week left until Christmas.  As is usually the case, the month of December has flown by and I have packed it in with tons of cool Holiday experiences.  I decided a long time ago I was never going to miss out on a full life because I am single- this includes Christmas.  As a result, I have established a number of my own Christmas traditions that are unique to me (meaning I did not necessarily do them in my family while growing up).

1. The first ‘single tradition’ I have developed is what I call my “memory tree”.  I’ve mentioned my tree before on this blog, but it’s a way to decorate with ornaments that symbolize or were purchased concurrent with special moments/vacations in my life.  I have an ornament for the colleges I attended, the states I’ve lived in, the places I’ve visited and the things I love to do.  This year I bought  a couple of new ones including an artichoke heart to symbolize my new healthy ‘heart’ (clever, right?), a cute swimming ornament, and one for my book club.  Here is a photo:

2. The second ‘single tradition’ is that I participate in as much as I can during the holidays.  I usually don’t go crazy but this year has been especially busy.  In just the last few weeks, I have been to the Messiah Sing-In, Christmas Carol at Hale Theater Orem, Christmas Around the World and a Celebration of Christmas at BYU, and tonight I am going to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Annual Christmas Concert (I scored tickets this year- hurray!).  In addition, I have purchased my holiday gifts, sang in my voice lesson recital and had two get-together’s at my apartment (first was my book club, second was my healthy holiday dinner party).

I’m not saying every year has to be this full or other people should feel badly if their Christmas was simple.  I’ve had many years where I didn’t do much. The important thing is to feel apart of the holidays and as a single person sometimes that takes more effort and planning.  In fact, I may have planned such a full schedule this year because in 2009 I was sick, and the year before that I was super busy getting one of our rentals ready (plus I went to Vegas).  The two traditions I make sure I do every year even if I have to drag myself sick (which I did last year!) is the Messiah Sing-in and the Christmas Carol at Hale Theater.  There is something about those traditions that make my Christmas.

3.  Finally, I try to do something to serve others at  Christmas time.  Some years this is as simple as putting extra time into selecting (or making) gifts for loved ones.  Last year I was on the committee for Festival of Trees (a charity event in Salt Lake for Primary Children’s Hospital where decorated trees are showcased and auctioned off); however, I did not feel I could do such a large project this year.  I was worried it would encroach on my exercise time and that has to be the priority right now (I’ve met with my trainer every week in December!).  So I asked around and found a person in need of cheer and did a little secret Santa gift for them.  It was a simple act of service but I’ve been uplifted by my involvement.

Some of the greatest acts of service we can do are within our families.  I remember some Christmas’ in college where my family struggled to remain upbeat. It’s a long story but my parents had a small baby and were very stressed out.  While I did not always have the best attitude back then, I know the service Ben, Megan and I did during those tough holiday’s meant a lot to my family- particularly my mother.

Many ideas also come from observing the needs in our community.   After seeing a cold homeless man, my niece Isabel started a coat drive  in her neighborhood to benefit a local shelter, and has collected over 50 coats (how cute is that!).   If a 6 year old can find a way to serve then we all can!

If singles are not careful Christmas can seem like an exclusively  couple/family time full of candy canes and mistletoe.  However, with a little effort we can be as involved and full of the spirit of the season as anybody else.   We each must decide if we are going to mope around feeling sorry for ourselves or go out and plan an activity, gather friends, buy presents, bake some holiday treats (although be careful with that one!), and watch a Christmas classic (or a cheesy Hallmark Christmas movie- whatever floats your boat!).  Just as with anything else, the holidays are only as good as the effort we put into them!  May yours be blessed and full of happy memories.

2009 in Review

I must admit to being tardy in my Christmas/end of the year posting.  Since I was sick for 2 weeks at the beginning of the month I have been behind on everything else.  I still have a great deal to do work-wise, but I am making progress.  Luckily I work for understanding people including and especially my father who is patient and understanding with me.

Even with all of the illness and work I have managed to squeeze together a great Christmas season.  It all started at the beginning of the month when I volunteered for Festival of Trees.  I have been working on the planning committee this year, which has been a great experience.   The Festival of Trees is an event that raises money for Primary Children Hospital in Utah, which is a hospital that treats all children regardless of ability to pay. It was a neat way to serve the community and make new friends along the way.

I also continued on my two favorite traditions-  going to see Christmas Carol at Hale Theater Orem and participating in the Messiah Sing-in in American Fork.  Both of these traditions just make Christmas for me.  I also had my Christmas tree which I call my Memory tree.  It is full of ornaments that have significance in my life, that remind me of good times and memories.

Now I am finally getting that done.  Thanks for all of your comments through the year.  Please continue.  My blog gives me great happiness and satisfaction throughout the year.

2009 in review

Work-

Probably the largest part of my life revolves around my work.  I am fortunate to still be self-employed as a property manager/events coordinator/sales tax filer (that’s a mouth full hah!).  Basically I do whatever it takes to make a living and stay free and unfettered.  I LOVE being my own boss, setting my own schedule and motivating myself to succeed.  I have never taken kindly to being told what to do and work is no exception.  I love my job!

The most exciting work development of 09 has been my transition from vacation into long-term rental sales in August.  Due to some problems, we decided to forgo vacation renting and find tenants interested in at least a year.  Without any training I was able to find wonderful, reliable tenants for three homes in a matter of weeks.  I feel blessed with such results and it is one more proof to me that I am doing what my Heavenly Father wants.

With the long-term tenants requiring less management, I have been taking on more responsibilities for Grabber including doing some sales tax work and handing out free warmers at events around Utah Valley.  I love the art of making the sale and in many ways it brings me back to the street contacting we did on my mission.  Whether it is real estate, warmers or Book of Mormons, I enjoy talking with people and trying to help them.

Family-

Work has not been the only satisfying facet of my life.   The most exciting news for my family this year was the birth of my fifth niece Sparrow.  Ben and Nahanni welcomed their new baby girl in October, and she has been easy and sweet.  My only regret is not seeing her.  Hopefully I can get up to Portland soon!

Another big development for the year was my sister Anna’s acceptance into my alma mater BYU.  In August Anna moved to Provo and began her schooling.  Now she is 35 minutes away, which allows us to spend a great deal of time together (sometimes I’ve been as much as 4 times in one week!).  I love having my sister close by.

I have also had the opportunity to visit my sister Megan and the rest of my family in California many times.  Megan even hosted Emily Whitman and myself at her house for nearly a week in September for the first ever Roommate Reunion!  It was great!

Friends-

In some ways this year has been challenging friends-wise simply because a number of my best friends have moved/gotten married recently.  I miss my friends when they aren’t nearby.  Luckily, I have also found ways to connect with friends far-away.  Some highlights include visiting with Raelene in January after my cruise, seeing Emily at the reunion and 2 other times, a visit from Julia Graves in October and getting to see my old roommate Stefanie J in Hawaii in June. Visiting with old friends may be my favorite thing in the whole world!

Travel-

While my 09 travels do not compare with 08, I have taken some great trips throughout the year.  It all started with my LDS singles cruise in January.  It was a particularly bold trip because I went without knowing anyone and ended meeting many new people.  Plus, I got to visit Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vaerta.  The best thing about the trip is due to the high fees I hardly used my phone or checked email for 7 nights. What a nice break!

In June I was fortunate to take another Hawaii trip with Camille.  This time my sister and her friends came along, as well as Stefanie and Camille’s friend Angie.  As always, we had a magical trip.  I can’t even describe how wonderful the beach is and how much I love Sunny Hawaii! Aloha!

Finally the year ended with several trips home for the holidays combined with my October trip with Emily at Megan’s.  I always love coming home and being near great family and friends.

Other-

In between all of this travel I‘ve been keeping busy with my voice lessons through Hale Theater Orem, and my real estate classes through Stringham Real Estate school.  I also love any chance I get to go to a movie, cook new recipe, read a good book or watch my favorite TV shows. If I get to do any of those things it is usually a pretty good week!

At Christmas time I feel so blessed to have a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to know that His sacrifice saves me from sin and unhappiness.  I know that my Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us that if followed will bring us happiness here on earth and bring us salvation in the eternities.  I am grateful for my testimony of the Savior and the chance I have at Christmas to sing “Joy to the World the Lord is come!”

I hope each of you has a Merry Christmas and that we will chat again soon.  Thanks for all of your support and love during this year of growth.  Visit me soon in Draper and I can show you a great time!

Merry Christmas and God Bless, Rachel Wagner